HomeNewsUN report shows 402 million Asian suffer from hunger

UN report shows 402 million Asian suffer from hunger

The year 2022 witnessed a staggering number of people suffering from hunger worldwide, ranging between 690 and 783 million individuals.

This alarming figure reflects an increase of 122 million compared to pre-pandemic levels but does show a slight decline of 3.8 million from the previous year, according to “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2023” report, published by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

While some regions experienced notable progress in combating hunger, Asia, especially the southern subregion, struggled to significantly reduce moderate and severe food insecurity between 2021 and 2022.

Although the overall global hunger levels remained relatively stable during the period between 2021 and 2022, the report highlighted a persistently high undernourishment rate of around 9.2 percent. This figure surpasses the pre-COVID level of 7.9 percent recorded in 2019, signaling the urgent need for concerted efforts to address the issue.

While progress was observed in specific areas of Asia and Latin America, East Asia, the Caribbean, and certain subregions of Africa faced an unfortunate surge in hunger, posing significant challenges.

Amidst these circumstances, there were positive developments in Asia as undernutrition declined from 8.8 percent in 2021 to 8.5 percent in 2022. This improvement equates to a reduction of over 12 million people affected, primarily in Southern Asia.

However, it is crucial to note that the current undernourishment levels remain 58 million higher than the pre-pandemic period.

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Southern Asia displayed the most significant strides in combatting hunger, although the region still grapples with an undernourishment rate of 15.6 percent. Eastern Asia witnessed a disturbing reversal, with an additional two million people falling victim to food shortages in the past year.

Asia, despite boasting a lower undernourishment rate compared to Africa, bears the burden of being home to the largest absolute number of people suffering from hunger in 2022.

Approximately 402 million individuals, accounting for 55 percent of the global total, struggled to obtain sufficient food.

Urbanization emerged as a key driver in shaping these dynamics. The rapid shift towards urban areas led to increased availability of cheap, readily available, but often nutritionally deficient, foods high in fat, sugar, and salt.

This, in turn, contributed to the rise of malnutrition. Furthermore, limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables, the marginalization of small farmers, and land loss exacerbated the situation as populations concentrated in urban centers.

However, urbanization also brought about opportunities. Urban environments generated income, particularly for women and young people, leading to improved food diversity. Additionally, farmers residing in urban settings benefited from enhanced access to production resources.

Projections indicate that by 2030, an estimated 600 million people will continue to face chronic undernourishment. This number would have been 119 million lower had it not been for the pandemic and the Ukraine war, which significantly impacted global food security.

The modest economic recovery witnessed in 2021 was marred by the eruption of conflict in Europe involving two major global agricultural exporters: Ukraine and Russia. Food prices soared to their peak in March 2022 and have since remained high, disproportionately affecting countries heavily reliant on food imports.

The surge in fertilizer prices, predominantly exported from Russia, contributed to a 10 percent increase in food import expenditures, reaching a staggering $2 trillion in 2022. This trend is expected to persist in the years to come.

While low-income countries experienced increased employment opportunities during the economic recovery, rising food prices have undermined these gains, making access to food more challenging.

The FAO suggests that in the long run, families may adapt their consumption patterns, and farmers may benefit from higher prices for their agricultural products, potentially improving their situations.

It is crucial to acknowledge the diversity of regional circumstances. In Western Asia, for example, several countries experienced a boost in oil revenues. However, political instability and rising inflation hindered progress in reducing hunger in these regions.

In contrast, Southern Asia has witnessed sustained economic growth, particularly in the agricultural sector. This growth has likely outpaced inflation and contributed to an overall improvement in food security. Governments in the region have implemented policy measures, including the provision of fertilizers, grain subsidies for vulnerable populations, and reduced customs duties on imported grains, all of which have yielded positive outcomes.

These encouraging developments provide hope that the number of undernourished people in Asia could significantly decrease to 242 million by 2030, representing a notable step forward in the ongoing battle against hunger and malnutrition.

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